At the Conservative conference two weeks ago, the Chancellor, George Osborne unveiled plans that he claims will tackle the long term problem of youth unemployment, including removing housing benefit from childless young people, preventing under- 21s from claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance if they are still unemployed after six months and using the money saved to create one million extra apprenticeships. The plans will be implemented if the Conservatives win a majority in next year’s general election.
David Cameron told Andrew Marr: “At heart I want us effectively to abolish youth unemployment. I want us to end the idea that aged 18 you leave school, go and leave home, claim unemployment benefit and claim housing benefit. We should not be offering that choice to young people. We should be saying to people you should be earning or learning”.
The Conservatives claim that these new plans would give unemployed 18-21 year olds six months to find work or training, otherwise they would be offered community work to perform. If this work was turned down their Job Seekers Allowance would be withdrawn.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister highlighted his plan to prevent childless 18-21-year-olds from claiming housing benefits. According to the Conservatives, the move will help incentivise more young people to find work or training after education instead of entering into the welfare state and a “life of dependency”. Chris Goulden, Head of Poverty Research at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has said that the increase in apprenticeships would be a welcome move forward but has also voiced his concerns that these plans may harm the unemployed. He said: “This should not come at the expense of people in receipt of out of work benefits.
“If we want to reduce the welfare bill, we need to address the underlying drivers of poverty; the high cost of housing, low pay and barriers to work, such as affordable childcare”.
The Conservatives say that the money saved by cutting these benefits to young people would be invested into increasing the number of apprenticeships from two million up to three million.
The focus on apprenticeships comes after the Labour leader Ed Miliband announced plans at the Labour party conference to ensure the number of people starting apprenticeships was in line with the number of people starting university by the year 2025.
At present the number of 16-19 year olds starting apprenticeships has slumped by 12 percent in the last three years. The numbers are down from 129,900 in 2011-12 to 114,500 in 2012-13.